Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team
Councillor Pancho Lewis and the West End Labour Action Team

WEST END WARD LABOUR ACTION REPORT – March 2019

News from Councillor Pancho Lewis and the Labour Action Team

SOHO 

Kemp House, Berwick Street

We are continuing to liaise with Westminster City Council officers about drilling during quiet hours. Twice this month it has been reported that drilling during quiet hours by construction company Interserve has occurred – even though it is against the rules and is very disrespectful to residents and local businesses. Residents reported that:

“The basic issue is drilling, during the so-called quiet hours, into the concrete structure that connects to the Kemp House residential tower. The sound travels through the residential block and is disturbingly noisy within the flats – it sounds like someone is drilling into the wall next to you.”

It was widely reported in the press that Interserve have fallen into administration. We understand this will not impact development works on Berwick Street but we will remain vigilant.

Peter Street

We have made this suggestion to the Highways Team after it was made by a local resident:

“As a resident, I’ve been concerned about traffic patterns once the major construction projects have finally been completed. I’d like to see consideration of Peter Street becoming a “shared street” without kerbs and with heavy-duty paving. Currently the narrow pavements on both sides are easily obstructed by just one person – and usually there’s more than one just standing there. And the pavements get crushed by heavy vehicles getting around the corners.”

Great Windmill Street

We are working on a cross-party basis to help slow down traffic on Great Windmill Street as it comes off Shaftesbury Avenue, due to concerns that cars move very quickly along the street. Given Soho Parish School is located on G Windmill Street, this is especially concerning. Residents say:

“A prevalent issue at the moment, and certainly linked, is the speed of traffic coming up Great Windmill past the school.  Only a matter of time before there’s an accident there.  Do you know if anyone is doing anything about imposing 20mph speed restrictions or lower?  How is this issue best tackled?”

Ingestre Court

We reported the following issue – stressing the importance of ensuring homeless people are re-housed and given proper support. We understand rough sleepers have not continued to use the entrance of Ingestre Ct in recent weeks since the issue was reported:

“Please see attached photos of rough sleepers this morning by the fire hydrant of Ingestre Court. Access to the hydrant should be u restricted at all times. The current scaffolding works(cratwd enclave) and the delays in installing a fence might be to blame. I trust this will be escalated to the council as yet a gain against a failure to act by CityWest.”

Walker’s Court

We were very concerned to receive a video showing drilling on Walker’s Court as part of a Soho Estates development. It is our view developers need to work around the needs of locals (including independent businesses), not the other way around. We reported it and since we understand there’s been no further disruptive drilling but will remain vigilant.

The disruption is described here:

“It has been a terrible day here working with this noise, dust, and smell of petrol.  I contacted Westminster Council regarding the decibel level.  I was assured someone would call me back in 45 minutes. No one did. I then visited Soho Estates and told them it was impossible to work in this environment.  They just brushed me off making it out that I was the problem.

My customers and staff were all feeling extremely distressed by all this. I spoke with three Police Officers who were in Walkers Court today. They said the decibel level of the jackhammers far exceeded any legal limit and was louder than any football match crowd control they had experienced, but they could do nothing. I am deafened this evening and my employee started coughing from the dust particles as there were no sheets around the work. To top it all, Westminster’s business rates bill arrived today!”

Stirling Court, Broadwick Street

We have raised the following with Council ‘City Inspectors’ (who police the rules surrounding when building is permitted):

“Are works allowed on Sundays? They are working on the gulleys right outside the fifth floor flats windows. Their machinery and vehicles are blocking the pavement and driveway. It is not emergency works. Why do Shaftesbury think that it is acceptable to do this now so it does not disrupt their footfall and commerciality but ruins residents’ Sunday?”

Collapsed Vaults on D’Arblay Street

Councillor Pancho Lewis wrote to the Chief Executive of Westminster Council, asking that urgent action is taken to repair the collapsed vaults on D’Arblay Street after years of inaction. His letter is here:

“I’ve been liaising with [officers] for quite some time now about the collapsed vaults on D’Arblay Street in Soho. [They’ve] been helpful, but these collapsed about two years again now and there has been unbelievably slow progress in resolving the issue.

Residents and businesses in the area were understanding to begin with, but the length of time it’s taken to deal with the problem means people are at their wits’ end. Parking is made more difficult, there are traffic restrictions, anti-social behaviour has increased – there are many consequences. It also looks unsightly.

Clearly what people would like to see are the vaults repaired and the street re-opened. In addition, as a minimum, there should be communication to let residents and businesses know what’s happening – but people have been left in the dark.

I’d be grateful if steps could be taken to resolve the matter promptly.”

Brewer Street – Wrangler’s pop-up shop

Following very loud music recorded at a Wrangler’s pop-up shop, we raised the issue with City Inspectors and received this response:

“City Inspectors visited over the weekend and have been advised that all future performances at the store have been cancelled. For your information the Wrangler Icon Store is only there temporarily – it is currently a ‘pop-up’ shop and I understand it will cease to trade on 24th March 2019. I can also confirm that the registered entity is aware of the implications of the noise abatement Notice and the impact if the requirements are not complied with.

Thank you again for contacting us and please advise your residents to contact our 24 hour Noise Service (Tel: 020 7641 2000) to report any further noise disturbance from this, or indeed any other premise.”

Soho Clarion – March edition

The Soho Clarion can be accessed on this link:

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/596361c1893fc076ca677102/t/5c8399f7104c7b7f3013dddb/1552128554160/clarion+172+to+print+%28optimized%29.pdf

There is a piece from Cllr Pancho Lewis.

Knife crime in Soho

It was reported in the media that there was a stabbing in Soho at the beginning of the month. Police released the following statement, below, in italics. It is important to note that, whilst any attack is cause for concern, attacks of this nature – as the police statement sets out below – are very rare in Soho. We would ask that if someone witnesses something suspicious they report it to the police.

We are pleased that in recent weeks following the changes brought about by the merger of police units in London the West End has now receive extra police attention and there has now been a net increase in the number of police officers according to local neighbourhood policeman Steve Muldoon.

“In Soho we have had two assaults with a knife this year. One on Romilly St last weekend and one Old Compton St just over three weeks ago.

Our thoughts clearly remain with those victims and the families of those who are injured. Both assaults have been targeted assaults and are not random within the Soho community. The second assault has seen two persons arrested and one of those charged with attempted murder. The male charged was charged within this offence and another attempted murder in University Street in Camden. At present the first investigation remains open. However this investigation has not been supported by the victim.

We will continue to deploy officers in hi-visibility to the area effected, we will also use numerous tactics available to us to target knife crime such as use of a knife arch, working with the TSB, the violent crime reduction task-force and deploying our own officers into areas.

We use stop and search regularly and will use this tactic to search for various things including knives and drugs. This will continue to be used by officers from the units mentioned. 

Local ward officers are continually searching areas within Soho where knives could be left or discarded. To date this year no knives or other dangerous weapons have been located [though since the statement was released knives have been located].

We want to reassure the public that knife crime is extremely rare across Soho and the West End but all officers deployed remain vigilant and will deal with any offences that come to light.”

Tupperware scheme in Soho markets – what you say

“On the Tupperware scheme, you should check out Mildred’s. They provide choose-your-own salads in plastic containers with lids, and give you a discount if next time you bring back the same container to fill up with their salad.”

FITZROVIA

Langham Street

The following suggestion was made by a local resident, which we have supported by writing to Council officers, in particular the importance of distributing leaflets locally to inform residents of the rules:

“Please find attached a photograph recording the street dumping that occurred on the corner of Langham Street and Gosfield Street over the weekend.  The chairs and furniture were dumped on Friday night and the fridge/freezer and television on Saturday night.  There appears to have been a house clearance in Gosfield Street which has prompted these actions.

It is disappointing that the dumping is again taking place where the two new trees have been planted and that the corner of Langham Street and Gosfield Street has  become a dumping spot of choice for the residents of Gosfield Street.

I wonder if this location can be kept under regular surveillance by the WCC refuse and enforcement officers and that Gosfield Street between New Cavendish Street and Langham Street can be leafleted by the Council making sure that residents/occupiers understand that street dumping is a serious offence and the high level of fines that can be levied against those carrying out this anti-social activity.

Eastcastle Street/NewmanStreet/76 Oxford Street

We have supported residents with the following concern about the behaviour of construction company Erith, who are leading the development on 76 Oxford St., which impacts those living on Newman Street and surrounding areas:

“In recent days your enabling works have intensified and generated a huge increase in large truck movements.  As you know the local streets are narrow, busy and much constrained by other works.  This means that unnecessary circling, idling etc. are not only a nuisance but an unacceptable additional risk to your neighbours and other road users.   I have seen your trucks blocking traffic, crossing kerbs putting pedestrians at risk and generally severely degrading the situation.  In addition, I believe this introduces a greatly elevated risk of serious injury to pedestrians and other road users.

I have lived here for twenty years, ten of them with Crossrail and five of them with Crossrail and the much bigger site next to yours both at more intense levels of activity.   Whilst I accept there are challenges and some issues are unavoidable, I believe your truck marshalling arrangements are inadequate and, as a result, dangerous.  I have never experienced worse.  You should be securing safe kerbside space in the neighbourhood and operating strictly timed access and full marshalling.  For example, your trucks should not be circling Oxford Street, Newman Street, Eastcastle Street, Berners Street trashing kerbs and endangering all of us.  They should be booked for direct access to site on timed slots and then leaving straight up Newman Street.  They should never even be on Eastcastle Street at all.

I would like to know what urgent action you will take to address this.  I will now be contacting the council on this as I believe it is very serious.  If you have an agreed marshalling plan with Westminster then either you are not operating it or it is not adequate to protect the public or the public realm.

I want to be really clear.  We accept that there must be some issues that arise in connection with your works.  However, I have enough painful experience to tell the difference between reasonable mitigation and lack thereof.  You fall into the second category and I urge you to address this as an emergency.  Unnecessary damage IS being caused and there is a greatly increased risk of injury or death from your operations.  You need to address this before that occurs.”

Upcoming FitzWest AGM

FitzWest residents have developed a draft neighbourhood plan, link below. This is their first step in the process of developing a local plan to help shape the future of planning in the neighbourhood. An AGM is being held on 13 May. For more details get in touch and we will link you up with the organisers.

http://fitzwest.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/FitzWest_draft-NP_0219_v09.pdf

Air quality community engagement event with the Fitzrovia community

Councillor Pancho Lewis is continuing to engage with Westminster Council officers about running a community engagement event in Fitzrovia to source ideas about how to improve air quality in the neighbourhood. He’s also keen to float ideas with residents about closing off residential streets with bollards to reduce the amount of traffic running through streets.

MAYFAIR

Busking on Oxford Street 

We are supporting residents with the following concerns:

“Just to let you know that the WCC City Management street service re noise seems to be collapsing. There are of course some really good, committed, noise officers doing their usual good job. But too many days when residents are just left to suffer the noise for hours on end.

We have had 6 hours of continuous busker noise today from the Selfridges area. Two neighbours made noise complaints, and no sign of any city inspectors turning up to do anything about the buskers. One resident had no response at all to her noise complaint, no call back, nothing.

The noise is not at super-loud levels inside our flat while the windows are  closed – it is the six hours of the same couple of tunes. I now have a headache, and I just got waves of nausea when the busker started up the same tune yet again.  I have been hearing that same musical phrase most days for  weeks now. I had to shut my windows during the day. It is coming in from both sides of my flat.”

Berkeley Square, North Public Realm improvements

We reported the following:

“I am not sure if you are aware but the contractors who are carrying out the works on the corner of Berkley Square, Davies Street and Mount street finish work and leave every day at 3.30pm. This can’t be correct. Why aren’t they working longer hours to get the works done quickly to minimise disruption.

The traffic is backed up on a daily basis and I have personally witnessed at least 2 people who nearly been hit by traffic due to the chaos that these works have caused.”

We received this response:

“Last week the concrete road base was laid on the southernmost section of Davies St between Berkeley Square and Mount Street.  Once the concrete base was laid it had to be left to cure (dry) which is why the workforce stopped work at 3.30pm.  Unfortunately, there was no additional tasks that the workforce could move onto to in order to carry on working as the next stage of work is dependent on the concrete base being complete.  This is quite normal at locations of heavily trafficked roads in London and is factored into the scheme works programme.  The majority of the slabs have now been poured and we have commenced the laying of the new granite pavement.  We hope to complete this section of the scheme by the end of April.

Currently, no pedestrian crossings have been removed as part of the ongoing works. The traffic management arrangements currently in place have been assessed in length to ensure the safety for all road users, including pedestrians, is maintained whilst ensuring the works area is kept secure. Anyone crossing in areas outside of the controlled crossing facilities cross at their judgement and risk as they do when works are not taking place.

The public realm scheme is fully funded by Grosvenor Estate and its funding partner Berkeley Square holdings. The scheme was approved by WCC cabinet in August 2017.

There is a dedicated communications team who provide regular updates to the local community. This is done via a bi monthly newsletter distributed to local residents and businesses with details of the scheme and impacts. These newsletters can also be found on the scheme website. A Construction Liaison Group (CLG) meeting is also held quarterly in the Phillips Gallery. The aim of the meeting is to engage with local residents and businesses to update on scheme progress and also show residents and business what the new Berkeley Square will look like. It is also a platform for residents to raise their concerns.  The next CLG will be held in June 2019. [Those who have concerns] would be more than welcome to attend this meeting if [they are] available so we can hopefully answer any queries [they] may have regarding the works.

Please do contact me if I can help any further.”

Traffic lights on Oxford Street

We reported the following:

“Residents are reporting that the pedestrian phases on some traffic lights on
Oxford Street have been shortened, and less able residents are finding it
difficult to get across the road before the traffic starts moving. This is
happening even if they started to cross immediately the green person light
came on.

This is frightening for those pedestrians. It is also dangerous, because
even if the car, bus, or van directly by the lights can see the pedestrian
who is still crossing the road, the speeding cyclist or motorbike from
behind them, slipping along between the vehicles and the kerb, might not.”

We received this response:

“The issue is that the signal timings had been switched on Orchard Street and Portman street before the two way was introduced. Therefore it appeared that pedestrians were being held on red when there was no traffic turning.

Now that BS2W is live there is trafficking turning into Orchard Street and out of Portman Street when the pedestrian lights are on red. It’s true that some movements now have less green time for pedestrians but also that some now have more. If this is still causing issues locally please do let us know.”

We understand the issues continue and will continue to raise this.

Farm Street

Residents raised this concern:

“I wish to draw your attention to the outside drinking at the Punchbowl public house on Farm Street, see attached photos.  It is clear they are far exceeding their permitted maximum count of 18 persons drinking outside on the pavement before 8pm.  I have tried to be proactive with the management but it hasn’t resolved the situation, the photos show the numbers outside drinking are well over the limit.  People are drinking in the road and in front of South Street Mansions, it is unacceptable.

Many times over the years I have repeated to the council that this is not a suitable street for public street drinking, with the narrow footpath, drinkers force pedestrians onto the road, whether they have children, pushchairs, dogs, with them etc…  I have been very tolerant about it but it is disheartening when the pub won’t follow the rules of their licence.”

This response was received:

“City Inspectors met with Punchbowl’s management team at the venue yesterday afternoon. The issues you raised were discussed in detail and the City Inspector reiterated the importance of managing the outside area in a way that not only supports the licensing objectives, but in a way that complies with the premises licence (for your info, the photos you sent were very helpful as they evidenced exact breaches of the licence). The business are fully aware of what is expected and we have commenced a period of monitoring to ensure compliance.”

WEST END WIDE ISSUES

Climate emergency

Cllr Pancho Lewis has asked the political leaders of Westminster Council to declare a state of climate emergency. A raft of local councils across the country have made similar declarations, committing to becoming carbon neutral within the next decade, as part of increasing public awareness about the existential threat that climate change poses.

https://www.campaigncc.org/councils_climate_emergency

What you say about the Action Team

“Just received the wonderful news that Citywest have agreed to my compensation claim.  I can’t thank you enough for your help and support with this. I am sure that you made all the difference in my getting this.”

“I wish you all the best for the future and I can report that I am getting excellent feedback about your work from the local residents.”

“Thank you so much for following this up for me. You are a credit to your constituency. I really do appreciate you taking the time to help me with this matter.”

“Thanks for your support this last year, I’m very grateful”.

Regards

Councillor Pancho Lewis, Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, and the rest of the West End Ward Labour Action Team

 

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